As a mental health therapist at a Medical Treatment Center (MTF) with the U.S. Army, I have genuine concern for our nation's service members and their families.
If the sequester occurs, the Department of Defense will furlough 800,000 workers, including civilian doctors, nurses, mental health providers and other professions that provide medical care to our active duty soldiers and their dependents.
I will be among those furloughed.
I will work 4-day weeks for 22 weeks between April and September. My salary will be cut 20 percent. I'm not sure how I will make it financially: student loans, a car note, mortgage, child support, food ... there's not much left over now when the bills are paid. There will be nothing left when the sequester hits.
Mostly, however, I worry about my patients.
I worry that our brave soldiers who fought so valiantly in Iraq and Afghanistan will have to fight harder for decent health care at home. What amounts to a 20% reduction in the civilian health care workforce means a reduction in services to a system already pushed to its limits.
I worry about:
* The 10-year veteran Staff Sergeant who hears screams every night in his sleep and hasn't eaten at a restaurant since he returned home from Iraq in 2008. Sequester means shorter sessioins at Behavioral Health working through his PTSD.
* The Specialist undergoing physical therapy because he hurt his back in Afghanistan when an IED sent him crashing from his gunner's post. Sequester means less time with his physical therapist.
* The Army spouse who visits the ER late one night because her 5-year-old son has a 103-degree temperature and she has nowhere else to turn. Sequester means even longer time spent in the waiting room and less time with a doctor.
* The young trainee who just found out a family member died and seeks grief counseling, but is told he must wait his turn with a social worker because the department is understaffed -- because of the Sequester.
* Or the 20-year officer who needs shoulder surgery but can't be scheduled until several weeks out because the hospital is short on physicians and nurses, thanks to the Sequester.
Meanwhile, our United States Congressmen will get their full salaries. And they will get their government-funded health care. And they will sit back and play gotcha games, lay blame and cater to their party's extremes.